Matthew Poole's Commentary
Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?Samuel anointeth Saul, 1 Samuel 10:1; confirms him by prediction of three signs, 1 Samuel 10:2-8. Saul prophesies, 1 Samuel 10:9-13. He cometh to his uncle; telleth him what Samuel had said concerning the asses, but concealeth the matter of the kingdom, 1 Samuel 10:14-16. Samuel assembleth the people at Mizpeh, 1 Samuel 10:17-20. Saul is chosen king by lot; but hideth himself; is discovered by God. His stature, 1 Samuel 10:21-23. Samuel presents him to the people, who receive him with shouting, 1 Kings 10:24. Samuel writeth the manner of the kingdom in a book, 1 Kings 10:25. God inspires the people with reverence towards Saul; but the children of Belial despise him, 1 Samuel 10:26,27.
This was the usual rite in the designation, as of priests and prophets, so also of kings, as 1 Samuel 16:1131 Kings 1:39 2 Kings 9:1,3,6; whereby was signified the pouring forth of the gifts of God’s Spirit upon him, to enable him for the administration of his office, which he might expect, and should receive upon the discharge of his duty.
And kissed him; partly in token of that reverence which he did owe, and that subjection which he and all the people were shortly to perform to him, whereof kissing was a sign, as Genesis 41:40 1 Kings 19:18; and partly as a testimony of his sincere friendship and affection to him, and how far he was from envying his successor in the supreme dignity.
Over his inheritance, i.e. over his own peculiar people; whereby he admonisheth Saul that this people were not so much his as God’s; and that he was not to rule and manage them according to his own will and pleasure, but according to the will and mind of God.
When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel's sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son?In the borders of Benjamin; in the way to Bethlehem, Genesis 35:19, which city was in Judah; and her sepulchre might be either in Judah or in Benjamin; for the possessions of those two tribes were bordering upon one another, and oft intermixed together: see Joshua 18:11.
Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine:To the plain of Tabor; not that at the foot of Mount Tabor, which was far from these parts; but another belonging to some other place, or man, called Tabor. Beth-el; properly so called, which was in Ephraim, where there was a noted high place, famous for Jacob’s vision there, Genesis 28:19, where it is probable they offered sacrifices in this confused state of things, when the ark was in one place, and the tabernacle, if not destroyed, in another. Or, to the house of God, i.e. to Kirjath-jearim, where the ark, the habitation of God, now was, 1 Samuel 7:1,2,16.
Loaves of bread might be offered, either by themselves, as Leviticus 2:4, or with other sacrifices.
A bottle of wine; which was poured forth in drink-offerings. See Leviticus 23:13 Numbers 15:5.
And they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands.Two loaves of bread; two of those three designed for sacrifice, supposing they could easily procure a supply of other loaves at Beth-el. But the more strange the present was, the more fit it was for a sign of God’s extraordinary providence in Saul’s affairs.
After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy:To the hill of God; a hill near Geba, or Gibeah of Benjamin, where a garrison of Philistines was, 1 Samuel 13:3, called here the hill of God, because it was a place devoted to the service of God; either for sacrifice, this being a high place, as it here follows; or for a school or college of prophets. To the city, adjoining to that hill.
A company of prophets: by prophets here, and in such-like places, he understands persons that did wholly devote themselves to religious studies and exercises, such as preaching, praying, praising of God, &c. For the term of prophesying is not only given to the most eminent act of it, viz. foretelling things to come; but also to preaching, as Romans 12:6 1 Corinthians 14:31,32 1 Thessalonians 5:20, and to the making or singing of psalms or songs of praise to God, as 1 Chronicles 25:1-3. And they that wholly attended upon these things are oft called
sons of the prophets, which were commonly combined into companies or colleges, as 2 Kings 2:3,5, that they might more conveniently edify and assist one another in God’s work; which institution God was pleased so far to honour and bless, that sometimes he communicated unto those persons the knowledge of future things, as 2 Kings 2:3,5.
From the high place; where either their habitation was, or they had now been offering sacrifice. And although they used to perform this following exercise, either in their college, or in the place of their sacrifices; yet now they did it in the descent of the hill, which probably was beside their custom, and therefore more proper for a sign to Saul of a more than ordinary hand of God towards him.
A psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; such instruments of music being then used by prophets and other persons, for the exhilaration and excitation of their spirits in God’s service. See 2 Kings 3:15.
They shall prophesy; either sing God’s praises, or speak of the things of God.
And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.Will come upon thee, Heb. will leap or rush on thee, to wit, for a season. So it may be opposed to the Spirit’s resting upon a man, as Numbers 11:25 Isaiah 11:2.
Shalt be turned into another man, i.e. thou shalt be suddenly endowed and acted with another spirit, filled with skill of Divine things, with courage, and wisdom, and magnanimity, and other qualifications befitting thy dignity.
And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee.These signs were certain evidences of God’s calling of him to the kingdom, because they were all future contingencies, which none but God could infallibly know or foretell.
Do as occasion shall serve thee, Heb. do what thy hand findeth to do, i.e. as thou shalt have a call and opportunity. He doth not intend that he should take the kingly government upon him, before his call to it was known to and owned by the people, which had been preposterous and dangerous; but that he should dispose his mind to a readiness of undertaking any public service when necessity required it, and he should be called to his office.
And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.Seven days shalt thou tarry till I come to thee: this, though now mentioned and commanded, yet was not immediately to be performed; as is evident, partly from the whole course of the story, which shows that Saul, and Samuel, and the people first met at Mizpeh, 1 Samuel 10:17, &c., where Saul was chosen by God and accepted by the people as king; and afterwards went to Gilgal, once before the time here spoken of, 1 Samuel 11:14,15; and partly by comparing this place with 1 Samuel 13:8, &c., where we find Saul charged with the violation of this command two years after the giving of it, as appears from 1 Samuel 13:1,2.
Quest. How then is this to be understood?
Answ. 1. This may be given as a standing rule for Saul to observe while Samuel and he lived; that in case of any great future difficulties, as the invasion of enemies, Saul should resort to Gilgal, and call the people thither, and tarry there seven days, which was but a reasonable and necessary time for the gathering of the people, and for the coming of Samuel thither. For though this be related as but once done, 1Sa 13, yet Josephus affirms that it was to be constantly practised upon all such occasions. And Gilgal was chosen for this purpose as a very fit place; partly because that place was famous for the solemn renewing of the covenant between God and Israel, Jos 4, and for other eminent instances of God’s favour to them, the remembrance whereof was a notable confirmation of their faith; and partly because it was a very convenient place for the tribes within and without Jordan to assemble, and consult, and unite their forces together upon such occasions. If you ask, Why then Saul did not practise this precept upon the first invasion of the Ammonites? it may be answered, that this was a rule for Saul when he and Samuel were asunder, whereas they were together in that expedition, 1 Samuel 11:7. And further, that necessity did excuse the violation of this precept then, because Saul could not wait for Samuel, nor forbear his action for seven days, as is evident from 1 Samuel 11:3,9,10. Or,
2. (which I propose with submission to the learned and judicious) This may be here added as another sign to confirm his faith, which having strengthened by three foregoing signs, he now fortifies it by another sign which was to follow afterwards; it being very usual for God to give men signs to confirm their faith from future events; as Exodus 3:12 2 Kings 19:29 Isaiah 7:13,14. So the meaning maybe this, Another sign will I add to strengthen thy faith: Thou shalt in due time, and upon a great occasion which shall then happen,
go down before me to Gilgal, and there
I will come down unto thee to offer—sacrifices, & c. But when thou comest thither, be sure thou tarry there seven days, and then I will come, as I have said, and give thee necessary instructions and assistance, as the matter shall require.
And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day.No text from Poole on this verse.
And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.Then the accomplishment of the two former signs is supposed, and this only of the third is expressed, because this was more eminent and public than the former: the other were only transient acts, which passed in private between two or three persons meeting together, and passing by one another; but this was a more permanent and more notorious sign, done in a more solemn manner, and before many and very considerable witnesses.
And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? what means this strange and prodigious event? Saul; a man never instructed nor exercised in nor inclined to these matters; a man ever thought fitter to look to his father’s asses, than to bear a part in the sacred exercises of the prophets.
And one of the same place answered and said, But who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets?One of the same place, Heb. one from thence, i.e. one of the company there present, or one of the prophets there prophesying.
Who is their father? who is the father of all these prophets of whom you speak, and among whom Saul now is one? who is it that instructs and inspires them with this holy art, but God? They have it not from their natural parents, nor from their civil education, but by inspiration from God, who, when he pleaseth, can inspire Saul, or any other man, with the same skill. And therefore wonder not at this matter, but give God the glory of it. Father is here put for teacher, or instructer, as it is used; as Genesis 4:20,21 Mt 23:9 1 Corinthians 4:15. And hence the scholars are called sons of the prophets. It became a proverb, used when any strange, unlikely, or unexpected thing happened.
And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place.Returning thither with the prophets, there to praise God for these wonderful favours, and to beg counsel and help from God in this high business.
And Saul's uncle said unto him and to his servant, Whither went ye? And he said, To seek the asses: and when we saw that they were no where, we came to Samuel.Saul’s uncle, being there present, and observing this great alteration in his nephew.
And Saul's uncle said, Tell me, I pray thee, what Samuel said unto you.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Saul said unto his uncle, He told us plainly that the asses were found. But of the matter of the kingdom, whereof Samuel spake, he told him not.Partly, in obedience to Samuel, who obliged him to secrecy; partly, from a humble modesty which appeared in him, 1 Samuel 10:22; and partly, in prudence, lest by an unseasonable publishing of it he should raise envy in some, disbelief and contempt in others, &c.
And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh;Unto the Lord; to appear before the Lord. So he speaks, either,
1. Because the ark was carried thither upon this occasion. Or,
2. Because God is present in all the assemblies of his people, whereof this was an eminent one: see 2 Chronicles 19:6 Psalm 82:1. Or,
3. Because they did in a manner erect a tribunal for God; and entreated, and consequently obtained, his presence there to supervise and direct the whole business by his sentence, which also he did, 1 Samuel 10:19, &c. See of this phrase Judges 11:11 20:1.
To Mizpeh; a city of Benjamin, Joshua 13:26, where all Israel had met before upon a public and solemn occasion, 1 Samuel 7:5.
And said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you:Of all kingdoms, to wit, the neighbouring kingdoms, which molested you from time to time.
And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.Ye have this day rejected your God; you this day declare that you persist in your former act of rejecting God’s government: See Poole "1 Samuel 8:7".
Who himself saved you; who by his own special providence took care to raise up judges and saviours for you, and to deliver you at all times, when you needed his help, and did not by your sins obstruct it.
Ye have said unto him, i.e. unto me his prophet and ambassador; and consequently unto the Lord, whom I represented, and in whose name I spake and acted.
By your tribes, and by your thousands; for each tribe was divided into thousands, Numbers 10:36 Deu 33:17 Joshua 22:14,21 Mic 5:2, as in England counties are into hundreds.
And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken.To come near unto the place appointed for the casting of lots. This tribe was now preferred before Judah, because the kingdom was freely promised by God to Judah, and was to be given to him in love; but now the kingdom was in a manner forced from God, and given to them in anger, Hosea 13:11, and therefore conferred upon an obscure tribe.
When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found.No text from Poole on this verse.
Therefore they inquired of the LORD further, if the man should yet come thither. And the LORD answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff.They inquired of the Lord; either by Urim or Thummim, which was the usual way of inquiry, Numbers 27:21 1 Samuel 23:9 28:6; or by Samuel, who by his prayer procured an answer.
Among the stuff; among the carriages or baggage of the people there assembled. This he might do, because he either had, or at least would be thought to have, a modest sense of his own unworthiness, which was a likely way to commend him to the people.
And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.There is none like him among all the people; as to the height of his bodily stature, which was in itself commendable in a king, and some kind of indication of great endowments of mind.
God save the king, Heb. Let the king live, to wit, long and prosperously; for an afflicted life is reputed a kind of death, and is oft so called. Hereby they accept and own him for their king, and promise subjection to him.
Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.The manner of the kingdom; not the manner of the king, of which he had spoken before, 1 Samuel 8:11, &c., but of the kingdom: to wit, the laws and rules by which the kingly government was to be managed, agreeable to those mentioned Deu 17:16, &c, which peradventure Samuel did expound and apply to their particular case.
Before the Lord; before the ark, or in the sanctuary, where it was kept safe from depravation.
And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.To Gibeah: not being actually inaugurated into his kingdom, he thought fit to retire to his former habitation, and to live privately till he had an occasion to show himself in a more public and illustrious manner, which he speedily obtained.
And there went with him a band of men, to give him safe and honourable conduct to his house, though not to abide with him there, which did not suit with his present circumstances.
Whose hearts God had touched, i.e. either
1. Disposed or inclined to this work; or,
2. Affected or renewed by his grace and good Spirit working upon their hearts; those that feared God and made conscience of their duty; for they are opposed to the children of Belial in the next verse. These, though they did not desire a king, as the generality of the people did, yet when God had given them a king, they were most forward to pay him that reverence and obedience which they owed him; both which proceeded from the same principle, that they were in both cases guided by God’s will; which was, that they should not desire a king in their circumstances; and yet they should obey him, when God had set a king over them.
But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.This man; so mean a person, and of the weakest of all the tribes.
Brought him no presents; as subjects in those times and places used to do to their kings; see 1 Kings 10:25 2 Chronicles 17:5 Matthew 2:11; and as Saul’s mean condition, herewith they upbraided him, required.
He held his peace; thereby manifesting his prudence and clemency, which was of great use in the beginning of his government.